Israeli PM Netanyahu poised for 5th term

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival has conceded defeat clearing the way for Netanyahu to enter a historic 5th term at leader of Israel. (April 11)

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AP’s Joe Federman on Netanyahu’s secret for success

AP’s Joe Federman explains Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s secret for success.

Netanyahu claims victory in Israel’s election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanks the people of Israel for their “vote of confidence” as the leader is on a clearer path to victory in Israel’s general election after updated exit polls show him gaining ground on his main rival. Two updated exit polls by Israeli television channels put his rightwing Likud ahead of rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White by one seat.

Israeli exit polls show Netanyahu edging ahead

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be headed toward re-election early Wednesday, as exit polls and partial results showed him edging ahead of his main competitor in a tight race that was seen as a referendum on him. (April 10)

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Israel at the polls for high-stake election

Israelis are voting in a high-stakes election that will decide whether to extend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long right-wing tenure or to replace him with ex-military chief Benny Gantz. The newcomer has mounted a strong challenge to the veteran prime minister by brandishing his security credentials while pledging to undo damage he says Netanyahu has inflicted on the country with divisive politics.

Netanyahu, Gantz vote in Israeli election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and candidate Benny Gantz have cast their ballots in Israel’s general elections. Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in office. Gantz, a retired military chief, is giving him a stiff challenge. (April 9)

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Israelis Head To The Polls With A Choice: Right Or Righter (HBO)

Eyal Hajbi has been on high alert since a rocket launched from Gaza landed near Tel Aviv two weeks ago. As the official responsible for the security of the 25,000 people living in Sderot, a village less than a mile off the fence with Gaza, rockets are virtually all Hajbi has thought about.

Well, rockets and Israel’s upcoming elections this Tuesday. And like a lot of Israelis here, Hajbi has already made up his mind: he’s voting for Likud, the party of four-term prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He supports Netanyahu’s tough stance toward Palestinians and security, and his increasingly right-wing views about the future of Israel.

“I love how he represents us in the world,” Hajbi told VICE News. “I have only one view: One state. The whole land of Israel. We shouldn’t give up on any part of it.”

But Israelis like Hajbi that live close to Gaza are far from the only ones turning out for Netanyahu. Despite mounting bribery and corruption charges, and a recent alliance with outwardly racist politicians, Netanyahu enjoys overwhelming support across the country ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

His party’s only real challenger is from a newly-formed centrist alliance called Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz, who’s framing himself as Bibi but without the baggage. “I think we will be able to unify the country by far more than what Netanyahu is doing right now,” Gantz told VICE News.

But don’t mistake Gantz for a left-wing alternative to Netanyahu’s increasingly right-wing rule. At an event for English-speaking voters in Tel Aviv last week, Gantz suggested Blue an White would try to copy the four-term prime minister’s strategy, and partner with hardline right-wing religious parties to form a governing majority.

As for the traditional left, it’s been conspicuously absent from the conversation. There’s a reason for that: Only 12 percent of Israelis now identify as left-wing, according to a recent survey.

“He was a good soldier, a good officer, sometimes I think if I had convinced him to stay in the military, maybe he would have done a lot less damage to Israel.”

For the country’s last bonafide left-wing prime minister, Ehud Barak, this is a frustrating development. Barak’s concerned about what the absence of a strong left has done to Israel’s national politics, including the effect it’s had on Netanyahu, a politician he once served beside in the army.

“He was a good soldier, a good officer, sometimes I think if I had convinced him to stay in the military, maybe he would have done a lot less damage to Israel,” Barak told VICE News.

Barak was the last prime minister candidate to oust Netanyahu out of office in 1999. But since then, Bibi has held onto power, in part by moving Israeli politics further and further to the right. Most recently he formed an alliance with an ultra-nationalist extremist right wing party called Jewish Power, that was inspired by Meir Kahane who advocated for the forced removal of Palestinians.

“Bibi, under the pressure, and because of his own interest, finds himself in a situation where those zealots, crazy racist zealots are dictating to him how to run the government and they are blocking the democratic life of Israel, and that should be rejected by the people.”

Now more than ever, as Israel continues to move more and more to the right, Barak says a strong opposition is necessary to start a difficult conversation, even if they can’t defeat Netanyahu’s coalition.

“Sometimes the people are wrong. Someone has to help them to open their eyes. It is usually the opposition.”

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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro arrives in Israel

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro arrives in Israel just ahead of the country’s polls in which his ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a tough re-election fight. IMAGES